« FöregåendeFortsätt »
array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies ? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains, which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument ? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer upon the subject ? Nothing. I We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find, which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon, until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope
with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot ? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations ; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale, that sweeps from the north, will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
• SPEECH OF WILLIAM LIVINGSTON,
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
TO THE LEGISLATURE OF THAT STATE, IN THE YEAR 1777.
GENTLEMEN, HAVING, already, laid before the assembly, by messages, the several matters that have occurred to me, as more particularly demanding their attention, during the present session, it may seem less necessary to address you in the more ceremonious form of a speech. But, conceiving it my duty to the state, to deliver my sentiments on the present situation of affairs, and the eventful contest between Great Britain and America, which could not, with any propriety, be conveyed in occasional messages, you will excuse my giving you the trouble of attending for that purpose.
After deploring with you the desolation spread through this state, by an unrelenting enemy who have, indeed, marked their progress with a devastation unknown to civilized nations, and evincive of the most implacable vengeance, I heartily congratulate you upon that subsequent series of success, wherewith it hath pleased the Almighty to crown the American arms; and particularly on the important enterprize against the enemy at Trenton and the signal victory obtained over them at Princeton, by the gallant troops under the command of his excellency general Washington. Considering the contemptible figure they make at present, and the disgust they have given to many of their own confederates amongst us, by their more than Gothic ravages, (for thus doth the great Disposer of events often deduce good out of evil,) their irruption into our dominion will probably
redound to the public benefit. It has certainly enabled us the more effectually to distinguish our friends from our enemies. It has winnowed the chaff from the grain. It has discriminated the temporizing politician, who, at the first appearance of danger, was determined to secure his idol, property, at the hazard of the general weal, from the persevering patriot, who, having embarked his all in the common cause, choo-es rather to risk, rather to lose that all, for the preservation of the more estimable treasure, liberty, than to possess it, (enjoy it he certainly could not,) upon the ignominious terms of tamely resigning his country and posterity to perpetual servitude. It has, in a word, opened the eyes of those who were made to believe, that their impious merit, in abetting our persecutors, would exempt them from being involved in the general calamity. But as the rapacity of the enemy was boundless, their havoc was indiscriminate, and their barbarity unparalleled. They have plundered friends and foes. Effects, capable of division, they have divided. Such as were not, they have destroyed. They have warred upon decrepit age; warred upon defenceless youth. They have committed hostilities against the professors of literature, and the ministers of religion; against public records, and private monuments, and books of improvement, and papers of curiosity, and against the arts and sciences. They have butchered the wounded, asking for quarter ; mangled the dying, weltering in their blood; refused to the dead the rites of sepulture; suffered prisoners to perish for want of sustenance; violated the chastity of women; disfigured private dwellings of taste and elegance; and, in the rage of impiety and barbarism, profaned and prostrated edifices dedicated to Almighty God.
And yet there are amongst us, who, either from ambitious or lucrative motives, or intimidated by the terror of their arms, or from a partial fondness for the British constitution, or deluded by insidious
propositions, are secretly abetting, or openly aiding their machinations to deprive us of that liberty, without which man is a beast, and government a curse.
Besides the inexpressible baseness of wishing to rise on the ruins of our country, or to acquire riches at the expense of the liberties and fortunes of millions of our fellow-citizens, how soon would these delusive dreams, upon the conquest of America, end in disappointment? For where is the fund to recompense those retainers to the British army? Was every estate in America to be confiscated, and converted into cash, the product would not satiate the avidity of their national dependants, nor furnish an adequate repast for the keen appetites of their own ministerial beneficiaries. Instead of gratuities and promotion, these unhappy accomplices in their tyranny, would meet with supercilious looks and cold disdain; and, after tedious attendance, be finally told by their haughty masters, that they, indeed, approved the treason, but despised the traitor. Insulted, in fine, by their pretended protectors, but real betrayers, and goaded with the stings of their own consciences, they would remain the frightful monuments of contempt and divine indig. nation, and linger out the rest of their days in self-condemnation and remorse; and, in weeping over the ruins of their country, which themselves had been instrumental in reducing to desolation and bondage.
Others there are, who, terrified by the power of Britain, have persuaded themselves, that she is not only formidable, but irresistible. That her power is great, is beyond question ; that it is not to be despised, is the dictate of common prudence. But, then, we ought also to consider her, as weak in council, and ingulfed in debt; reduced in her trade; reduced in her revenue; immersed in pleasure; enervated with luxury; and, in dissipation and venality, surpassing all Europe. We ought to consider her as hated by a potent rival, her natural enemy, and particularly exasperated by her imperious conduct in the last war, as well